Japanese-American Zoot-Suiters Subverted Pretty Much Everything

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Conflicts between “rowdies” and other prisoners interrupted the daily routines of several, if not all, the camps. At the Gila River camp in Arizona, for instance, the editors of the center’s newspaper complained that zoot suiters had swiped all the chains from the laundry sinks to use as watch chains.

Nikkei Chicago’s Ellen Wu has a super fascinating article up about a subculture most of us have forgotten: Japanese-American zoot-suiters, or “pachuke” (the Japanese version of “pachuco”). The trend persisted even in internment camps, and troubled both Japanese parents and mainstream America in ways that still seem relevant decades later. (Via.)


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →